Northeastern isn't one of those teams.
The Huskies, currently the Hockey East's hottest team, have won six straight, dating back to a Nov. 18 win at Providence. The team is back at .500 with an overall record of 7-7-2, and has climbed back into the thick of things in the HE standings, sitting in seventh place with a conference record of 4-7-2.
Through its first 10 games of the season, Northeastern and first-year head coach Jim Madigan had won only one game, going 1-7-2. They had also played the most games in conference, and nothing seemed to be going right. But recently, things have drastically changed on St. Botolph Street.
While many players have made changes to their game, the turnaround has undoubtedly been fueled by junior goaltender Chris Rawlings, who has been seeing the puck better. During the streak, the netminder has allowed only nine goals and has a save percentage of .951.
"He's been fabulous," Madigan said of Rawlings' play. "He gives our team confidence. There's nothing worse than playing this game when you don't have confidence in your goaltender. I've been there before. It's a tough way to approach a game and we're not in that mindset at all. We go in there knowing we got what we think is the best goaltender in the league."
Earlier this season, Northeastern had trouble pulling games out in the third period, but that has also changed, evidenced by this past weekend's result. The Huskies picked up a 3-2 win over UMass-Lowell, another team that had been on a winning streak.
The teams entered the third period deadlocked in a 1-1 tie, but the Huskies got a goal on a deflection by defenseman Anthony Bitteto to take the lead, and later benefited from the Riverhawks pulling their goaltender Doug Carr with almost four minutes left in the game.
"There's going to be a lot of one-goal games in this league, and you have to find a way to win those games," Madigan said. "I credit our guys for finding a way to win the game. We've been in a few of these lately and you've got to come out on the plus side. These were two big points for our hockey club."
The six-game streak is Northeastern's longest since the 1997-98 season, and the team has outscored its opponents 27-9. And NU hasn't been beating just anybody. All of the team's last four wins have been over ranked opponents (Michigan, Notre Dame, Lowell), and only one of those games — last Saturday's win over the Riverhawks — came at home.
Offensively, it's been the line of Steve Quailer, Braden Pimm and Cody Ferriero that has led the charge. During the streak, the trio has combined for 14 goals, 13 assists and a plus-26.
"We're confident," Ferriero said. "When things aren't going well we know we can turn them around. We always know [Rawlings] will have our back there so we can take a few chances now and then. We don't like giving up odd-man rushes, but we're okay with giving up a few here and there to try and score some goals when we've got him back there."
What fueled this turnaround? It could have been a players-only meeting held the week before the winning streak started.
"We sat down and had a players-only meeting, kind of drew some things out and that definitely helped us out," Quailer, one of the team's assistant captains, said after the win against Providence back in November.
Quailer also spoke about the team doing something a little differently before that win.
"We tried a little reverse psychology tonight saying 'Let's go out there and lose this one' because saying 'Let's go win' hasn't been working so we switched it up."
While the Huskies will get some rest, they won't see a drop in the quality of their upcoming opponents on the schedule, as they'll return to face Princeton and then either Minnesota or Niagara as part of the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis. After that, Northeastern will face Boston University and Boston College on its first weekend back in Hockey East play.
The game between Northeastern and BU will be televised live on NESN on Jan. 13.
Photo via Hockey East
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